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Old 12-09-2007, 09:24 AM   #1
Rivet Master
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1969 23' Safari
New Orleans , Louisiana
Join Date: Aug 2007
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Alice falling down the rivet hole...

My '69 Safari most definitely needs some TLC in the skin/riveting department, especially in the bellypan/wheelwell areas and rear bumper areas. I'm reading up here on riveting details, different sized rivets and drill bits used, but to a 50-year old whose never popped a single rivet in his life I gotta admit there's an awful lot to learn about what seems like a simple subject! Great websites like

provide a wealth of information, but I'm starting to feel like the guy in The Clash's "Lost In The Supermarket" who's got too many choices to make a decision. Do I need a hand-riveter or an air gun? Which one should I start out with? How many of these "bucks" do I need? What shapes? My questions just keep multiplying... Ok, just point me to the Riveting For Dummies book with accompanying Starter Kit...

rick olivier
new orleans

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Old 12-09-2007, 10:33 AM   #2
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1971 21' Globetrotter
Arvada , Colorado
Join Date: May 2006
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You've got a couple of questions you need to answer yourself to decide which type of rivets you want to install. First is on solid shank, or as known in the Airstream world as "buck" rivets. To install these you need access to both sides of the material that the rivets are to be install in, and for most rivets you will need two people, a shooter and a bucker. The tooling to install solid shank rivets can be spendy but the rivets are real cheap. The second type are blind rivets, AKA in the Airstream industry as Olympic's. These are more expensive, you only need access to the outside of the AS, and can be installed with either a manual "pop rivet gun" or a pneumatic pop rivet gun, by a single person. Both of these tools cost considerably less then the tooling to install solid shank or "buck" rivets.


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Old 12-09-2007, 10:52 AM   #3
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1968 24' Tradewind
Eureka , California
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 694
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I use an air rivet gun from Harbor Freight- cost is around $20. It has held up great. I don't know how much riveting you have to do- I'd say I used up 3 bags of pop rivets and another of Olympics- and some more on the belly. I bought all my rivets from Vintage Trailer Supply - Vintage travel trailer parts and supplies! .

Good luck, and don't fret, it's easy once you start (I didn't go down the bucking and cleco hole though...).

"If you want something done right, do it yourself!"
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Old 12-09-2007, 11:25 AM   #4
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1978 31' Excella 500
Venice , California
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Upsetting rivets doesn't need to upset you. You can only use solid rivets ifthe inner skin is out of the way. Most repairs are done with pop rivets that go in from one side and use a mandrel and a special extractor to set the rivet. To get the best finish, olympic rivets are designed to be profiled with a special tool (expensive) after they are installed. They then look just like the regular solid rivets used to build the trailer. Where greater stress is anticipated, stainless steel rivets can be used-they're much harder than aluminum.
"Not all who are laundering are washed" say Bill & Heidi

'78 Excella 500,"The Silver Pullit". vacuum over hydraulic disc brakes, center bath, rear twin. '67 Travelall 1200 B 4X4 WBCCI 3737
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Old 12-09-2007, 12:09 PM   #5
Restorations done right
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1962 26' Overlander
1961 26' Overlander
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Baltimore , Maryland
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riveting is tons of fun... I use a manual riveter because I feel it is better... let me explain why. The air riveter works great as long as everything is set up right. I had a lot of trouble with that. Too much pressure or slight angle... you pull the trigger and bam, done. With the manual one, you can feel it start to get tight, and then make sure it is seated properly before you set it. If there is any gap at the head, drill it out and start again cause it will leak.
As far as the shaver... yeh, it cost too much, but so does viagra and lots of folks have no trouble spending money on that stuff. $200 is nothing compared to what the tool does.
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Old 12-09-2007, 03:26 PM   #6
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1969 23' Safari
New Orleans , Louisiana
Join Date: Aug 2007
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thanks, Aerowood, for a most excellent description of the buck/Olympic issue. looks like most of my riveting will be of the blind Olympic variety, although the wheell well might be a candidate for solid shanks since it's accessible from both sides. the bellypan is missing A LOT of rivets and needs to be addressed. thanks, again,

rick olivier
new orleans

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